Go back to school? Yeah, right

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education = $ written on blackboard with apple, booksWhen you’re searching for a new job or career, a common refrain heard is “Go back to school.” Today more than ever, that’s easier said than done.

Riddle me this: Who is going to foot the bill?

The skyrocketing cost of education coupled with the widespread squeeze on people’s bank accounts and time, makes pursuing a traditional four-year or graduate degree a pipe dream for many — especially when you are supporting other people, have bills and a mortgage to pay, or are simply living paycheck to paycheck .

There are millions of people who find themselves in this situation including those who:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Some work experience but no college degree
  • Want to try a new career but don’t want to go through years of schooling
  • Can’t afford the money or time to go back to school

There are many way to earn training and certifications outside of the traditional classroom setting. For example, CareerBuilderinstitute.com has courses on computer and business skills, language and sales training, licensing and certification, and even some free courses. Additionally, there are many employers who train on-the-job or pay for your certification or licensing.

So how do you change careers or secure a new job when you don’t have the means to pursue that four-year degree?

After the jump, listed are 20 jobs that require a high school diploma, on the job training, vocational training, certification or a combination — and many have flexible and part-time hours, too. (Click on the job titles to get available jobs.)

1.       Automotive service technicians
What they do: Also called mechanics, automotive service technicians inspect, maintain and repair automobiles and light trucks using traditional equipment and computerized tools
What they need:* Postsecondary vocational award; certification from National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is highly regarded
What they earn:** $37,662

2.       Accounting clerks
What they do: Also known as accounts payable clerks or accounts receivable clerks, duties may include posting details of transactions, computing interest charges, making sure loans and accounts are up-to-date, and ensuring account accuracy
What they need:* A high school diploma and some accounting coursework or relevant work experience
What they earn:** $29,991

3.       Carpenters
What they do: From highways and bridges to kitchen cabinets, carpenters construct, erect, install and repair structures and fixtures made from wood and other materials.
What they need:*
About three to four years of both on-the-job training and classroom instruction
What they earn:** $36,889

4.       Customer service representatives
What they do:
Serve as the direct point of contact for customers of all types of businesses by answering questions and concerns, providing information and addressing complaints.
What they need:* Moderate-term on-the-job training
What they earn:** $31,685

5.       Dental assistants
What they do:
Not to be confused with dental hygienists, dental assistants work closely with dentists and perform a variety of duties including instrument sterilization, obtaining records, preparing patients for treatment
What they need:*
Many skills are learned on the job, but there are also dental-assisting programs, which often take one year or less to complete
What they earn:** $32,246

6.       Electricians
What they do: Install and maintain wiring, fuses, circuits, outlets, load centers, panel boards and electrical machines in homes and businesses.
What they need:*
Long-term on-the-job training, often in the form of an apprenticeship program lasting four to five years
What they earn:** $47,869

7.       Fitness trainers
What they do: Lead and instruct people in exercise activities, either individually or in a group setting , in fitness centers, gyms, hospitals, universities and clients’ homes
What they need:* Postsecondary vocational award/certification is critical and depends on the employer and specific type of fitness work.
What they earn:** $24,890

8.       Gaming managers/ supervisors
What they do:
Oversee the operations and personnel in an assigned area of a casino or gaming facility and ensure workers and gamblers are aware of and adhering to the rules of the games
What they need:*
Related work experience and a license from a regulatory agency.
What they earn:** $47,429

9.       General maintenance and repair workers
What they do:
Troubleshoot, inspect and diagnose problems, in many different crafts (like carpentry, plumbing, air conditioning and heating, and painting) and decide the best way to correct them
What they need:*
Moderate-term on-the-job training
What they earn:** $27,890

10.   Home health aides
What they do:
Assist elderly, ill or disabled people at home instead of health-care facilities providing  services like administering medications and checking temperatures, and may also do housework and assist with personal care
What they need:*
Short-term on-the-job training by registered nurses or experienced aides
What they earn:** $22,163

11.   Interpreters and translators
What they do:
Interpreters convert one spoken language into another and must express thoughts and ideas clearly; translators convert written materials from one language into another and should have excellent writing and editing skills
What they need:* Fluency in two or more languages and long-term on-the-job training.
What they earn:** Interpreters — $37,700; Translators — $42,229

12.   Manicurists and pedicurists
What they do:
Also called nail technicians, they groom and polish fingernails and toenails and provide manicures and pedicures.
What they need:*
Postsecondary vocational award; license may be required
What they earn:** $19,978

13.   Medical assistants
What they do:
Perform administrative and clinical tasks (depending on what’s allowed by the state) in doctor and other health practitioner offices
What they need:*
Some may be trained on the job but others complete one- to two-year programs
What they earn:** $30,136

14.   Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants
What they do:
Provide a variety of hands-on and routine tasks in many aspects of a patient’s care including but not limited to helping patients eat and groom, escorting them to exam and operating rooms, and taking temperature or blood pressure
What they need:* Postsecondary vocational award
What they earn:** $25,133

15.   Office clerk
What they do:
Specific duties vary depending on type of office but can include administrative duties, data entry and using office equipment
What they need:*
Short-term on-the-job training
What they earn:** $29,410

16.   Pharmacy technicians
What they do:
Work in retail and mail-order pharmacies assisting pharmacists by preparing medication, stocking shelves and performing administrative duties; state rules regulate specific duties
What they need:* Moderate-term on-the-job training or certification
What they earn:** $28,624

17.   Restaurant cooks
What they do:
Measure and cook ingredients according to recipes, use kitchen equipment and order food supplies
What they need:*
Long-term on-the-job training or vocational training
What they earn:** $21,774

18.   Retail salesperson
What they do:
Assist customers in choosing merchandise, maintain the look and feel of store to set standards and operate the cash register
What they need:*
Short-term on-the-job training
What they earn:** $24,223

19.   Skin care specialists and estheticians
What they do:
Cleanse and beautify the skin by giving facials, full-body treatments, head and neck massages, as well as apply makeup
What they need:* Postsecondary vocational award and license
What they earn:** $28,259

20.   Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
What they do:
Drive and operate large capacity trucks and vans and transport goods including cars, livestock and other materials city to city or over long distances
What they need:*
Moderate-term on-the-job training, good driving record and commercial driver’s license
What they earn:** $34,618

*Minimum requirements according to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Requirements may vary by employer, job level and state requirements.

**U.S. national average salary according to CBsalary.com.

6 Comments
  1. Actually, education is an affordable option by attending your local community college, using financial aid, or qualifying for TRA benefits through your local One-Stop Career Center. Most of the occupations listed above do now require some kind of post-secondary education. I consider going back to school a good investment in your future and may be the only way to ensure that you will remain competitive in the job market.

  2. listed are 20 jobs that require a high school diploma, on the job training, vocational training, certification or a combination — and many have flexible and part-time hours, too.

  3. If you look at all the post, you will find that truck drivers are amongst one who are given good pay. Due to shortage truck drivers are needed everywhere and if one stick to this job for long period of time, there are pure chances that they will get good pay.

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